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Deadly flash floods hit the south of France

Éric Cabanis, AFP | At least 10 people died as violent rainstorms turned rivers into raging torrents in southwestern France on October 15, 2018 in the latest episode of extreme weather in Europe.

At least 11 people died when violent rainstorms turned rivers into raging torrents in southwest France overnight Sunday, prompting some of the deadliest flooding in years, officials said.


The equivalent of three months of rainfall was dumped overnight on October 15 in the Aude region in just a few hours, swelling rivers and flooding fields and towns, officials added.

President Emmanuel Macron's office said he would visit the affected areas today, while Prime Minister Édouard Philippe, who is also the acting interior minister, headed to the Aude region on Monday.

Philippe said the government would ask insurers to process disaster claims and payments "as quickly as possible" while he assessed the damage in the region.

The rescue operations also appear to have postponed an expected announcement on a government reshuffle, prompted by the sudden resignation of interior minister Gérard Collomb nearly two weeks ago.

One of the overnight victims was an 88-year-old nun who was swept from her room by floodwaters at the Burning Bush priory in the village of Villardonnel, north of the fortress city of Carcassonne.

"The water crashed through the building's main door and on through the door to her room, the lowest in the convent. It carried away her furniture which ended up on the veranda," said Sister Irene, the mother superior.

The nun's body was later found under trees outside the convent.

Elsewhere, flash floods overturned cars, ripped up streets and battered buildings and bridges, especially to the north of Carcassonne where authorities ordered bridges closed because of the rising Aude river.

FRANCE 24's Christopher Moore reports

Authorities rushed hundreds of firemen and half a dozen helicopters to the region to help with rescue operations, particularly in the floodplain of the Aude river which hit its highest level in 100 years, according to the Vigicrues flood agency.

"There's water everywhere in the house. Everything is flooded," Helene Segura told AFP by telephone from the hard-hit village of Villegailhenc, where at least one small bridge had collapsed.

"When I look out the window, I can only see water and mud everywhere. It's sad when you're 70 years old like me and you need to redo your house, change the furniture and all the upholstery," she said.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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